Shelly Sterling received permission to sell the Los Angeles Clippers as the franchise's sole trustee after experts declared Donald Sterling "mentally incapacitated," reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles. Per the terms of the trust, that freed Shelly Sterling to act on Donald's behalf without needing his approval.
The news comes after reports of a $2 billion sale of the franchise to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earlier on Thursday.
Sterling, 80, has reportedly been dealing with prostate cancer, which could be a factor in how his mental health was evaluated by experts. TMZ reports that he has Alzheimer's, but that has not been confirmed. His lawyer denied all charges Friday.
Donald Sterling's lawyer Max Blecher says in an e-mail, " Mr. Sterling is far from mentally incompetent."— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 30, 2014
Blecher said he was aware of the evaluations of Mr. Sterling this month, but called the results "grossly exaggerated"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 30, 2014
When news of Ballmer's purchase initially hit the public, there was some confusion as to whether Donald Sterling would accept the deal or decide to challenge the NBA. However, this development appears to take that decision out of his hands, not long after Sterling seemingly went back and forth on giving Shelly permission to sell the team.
Recently, he reportedly gave his estranged wife permission to sell the franchise, but that came with mixed messages as he also hired a lawyer, changed his mind and informed the league he wouldn't pay his $2.5 million fine.
By transferring the status of sole trustee from Donald Sterling to Shelly Sterling, the process of selling the team to Ballmer likely becomes expedited. Many of the complications with the sale loomed around a possible lawsuit from Donald Sterling, but if he's surrounded by medical questions and hands over trusteeship to Shelly, she can complete the deal without his permission. However, it is possible that Donald Sterling's lawyers attempt to fight the diagnosis.
There could still be a response by Donald Sterling & his lawyers, but his first action would be to contest Shelly's move, not NBA now.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 30, 2014
This may explains how the reported Ballmer deal came together so quickly when the Clippers' situation seemed to be in turmoil. With Shelly given full permission to sell the Sterling family's majority stake in the franchise, the NBA will likely move as quickly as possible to install the new ownership. The league had a June 3 meeting scheduled to vote on terminating Donald Sterling's ownership; the status of that meeting remains unclear.